On May 3rd, AFP Chicago will proudly honor eight of the most distinguished leaders of Chicago's philanthropic and nonprofit sectors at the 43rd annual Philanthropy Award Luncheon.

Sponsorships are currently available for the Philanthropy Awards Luncheon. Please visit the AFP Chicago website at https://www.afpchicago.org/sponsorship-and-individual-tickets for more information, and save Friday, May 3rd on your calendar.

Please allow us to introduce you to this year's eight recipients!

AFP Chicago Honoree Spotlights


LIZ THOMPSON, The Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education
Outstanding Community Leader Award

Liz Thompson has thrived thanks to her roots. A lifelong Chicagoan, Liz credits her success to being raised in the Cabrini Green neighborhood, a place that shaped her experiences and character to prepare her for a successful career, one that has spanned both corporate America and the non-profit sector. 

Her leadership roles with City Year Chicago, a Denver-based Montessori School and the Ameritech Corporation prepared her for her current role as the CEO of Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education (CAFÉ), driving their mission that is laser focused on youth development through career readiness and college access and achievement.

Her widespread influence is also observed in her board roles which currently include Chicago Public Media/ WBEZ and Chicago Beyond. Liz is also Co-Chair of the University Minority Engineering Program Advisory at Purdue where she completed her degree in electrical engineering. Liz's deep knowledge and unwavering commitment to her work and the community also earned her a spot on Make It Better's list of Top Black Women of Impact in Chicago in 2018.

A treasure to the Chicago community, AFP Chicago is truly honored to recognize Liz Thompson as the 2019 Outstanding Community Leader.


Benjamin Franklin Award

Similar to many fundraisers, Christine Zrinsky "fell into" into our profession. Christine's original vision for her career was to become a journalist, having been inspired by "All the President's Men" and her high school journalism adviser and English teacher. Her entrée-point into to the world of professional philanthropy was during the summer 1986, when a colleague secured an interview with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO). The rest, as they say, his HER story...

Christine began her career with the CSO as assistant to the annual fund director. She soon realized that passion for writing stories, articles, and editorials directly translated into crafting persuasive appeals, cases of support, proposals, and activating calls to action. It wasn't long her craft was honed that she was promoted to assistant annual fund director and then to director of individual gifts. Then, in 1994, she began her tenure with Chicago's renowned Lincoln Park Zoo, as director of individual and major gifts, which became her home base!

Christine's institutional legacy at The Lincoln Park Zoo is tremendous! She has served in five dynamic roles since joining the team. Under her leadership, Christine and her team of 30 has raised $13 million annually and grown the Zoo's endowment from $1 million in 1995 to more than $135 million today. Nearly every facility and exhibit on the Lincoln Park Zoo campus has been a result of the total $300 million in investments she and her team have secured. She also founded, over 20 years ago, the Advancement Committee of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums which is regarded as a best-in-class model for fundraising within her sector

Christine has been profoundly committed to our profession, volunteering, and mentoring. She is a proud Valpo alumna and has served with her University in various capacities. She is a member of the National Council for the College of Arts & Sciences and is chair of the President's Circle giving club.

CHRISTINE O'REILLY, Chicago White Sox Charities  Professional Grantor Award

Let us introduce you to Christine O'Reilly who is in her 37th season with the Chicago White Sox, her fifth as Vice President of Community Relations/Executive Director of Chicago White Sox Charities. Her friends and colleagues classify her as an exemplary leader who is kind, insightful and compassionate about the needs in the community. She is creative, understanding and goes out of her way to bring joy to the underserved.

Christine's path to the Chicago White Sox Charities started out as a summer job during college. Since then she has continued her passion for supporting children and education programs throughout the community. Her role allows her to have ongoing involvement in supporting families in complex situations and helping the community, and she is considered to be the driving force behind the White Sox extensive community outreach initiatives.

Christine was also instrumental in the creation of the Chicago White Sox Volunteer Corps which was established in 2009. To date it has contributed over 47,800 service hours to the greater Chicagoland community reaching out to more 4,900 White Sox fans, over the course of hundreds of service projects.

As Executive Director of Chicago White Sox Charities, Christine oversees the club's charitable donations to a variety of nonprofit and social service agencies, donating more than $30 million since CWS Charities was established in 1990.

Her interest does not just stop at White Sox baseball as she is deeply involved in the White Sox investment for inner-city youth baseball development, with nearly $500,000 in annual funding from the Charities. This alone impacts thousands of inner-city youth both on the baseball field and in the classroom.

Christine is an alumnus of Illinois State University. She and her husband, Greg, reside in Downers Grove with their two children: Hayley (28) and Brendan (24).

The Association of Fundraising Professionals Chicago Chapter is thrilled to recognize Christine O'Reilly. 

Distinguished Philanthropists Award

Alexandra and John Nichols build bridges in Chicago, both symbolically and geographically. While they were born in New York and Shanghai, China respectively, the Nichols have lived in Winnetka for the past 35 years during which time they have dedicated themselves to becoming visionary stewards of Chicago, helping to shape it by bridging the way for Chicagoans of every background to enjoy the arts, theater, outdoor space throughout the city and north shore, and gain access to quality education.

Their steadfast commitment to philanthropy is driven largely in the mission of the John D. and Alexandra C. Nichols Foundation, which supports the arts, culture, and education. Their extensive board service lends great thought leadership as well; Alexandra Nichols serves on many including, Harris Theater for Music and Dance who nominated her for this award, Music Institute of Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, and WTTW|WFMT. For John Nichols, they include University of Chicago, Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago Community Trust, and the Lyric Opera among others.

Their avid support for a thriving, world-class city can perhaps best be seen while visiting Millennium Park, where they are founding members, underwriting the park with significant support to include the Harris Theater, as well as the Nichols Bridgeway which connects Millennium Park to the Modern Wing at the Art Institute, where they are also major benefactors. The many thousands of visitors to that area can enjoy the beautiful sights and sounds of a vibrant city in large part because of Alexandra and John Nichol’s deep support.  

For these reasons and so many more, we are proud to recognize Alexandra and John Nichols as the recipients of the 2019 Distinguished Philanthropists award. 


GEORGE S. Wright, Citi - Executive Leader Award

"George is a thoughtful leader in philanthropy who stands shoulder-to-shoulder with us. He understands the important role we play and deeply cares about the communities and constituencies we serve." The previous quote from the Chief Development Officer at Chicago Commons is a common refrain that we heard from a number of organizations that have received grants from Citi under George's leadership as Director of Community Development.

Since 2007, George has been responsible for Community Development in the Midwest Region, which includes 17 states in the U.S. and Canada. George is known for his "hands on" approach with non-profits where he encourages them to think beyond the grant in front of them, as well as come up with innovative and sustainable ways to take their non-profit to the next level. George sees the entire philanthropic picture and recognizes how a seed-funding grant from Citi can leverage support from additional funders, thereby doubling or tripling the impact on the community or organization. Because of George's humble nature, you would not immediately recognize him as an executive who manages Community Development, but if you ask any of the organizations that he has worked with, they will tell you how important someone like George is for changing Chicago for the better.

George has served on the Advisory Board for the City of Chicago/Accion CMI, Board Chair of the Chicago-Cook Workplace, Board Chair of the Center for Economic Progress and Board Chair for the Greater Englewood CDC. In addition, George has received an excellence award from the 100 Black Ben of Chicago, and he won the YMCA Black & Hispanic Achiever in Industry Award.

Most importantly, George is a role model and mentor for non-profit leaders. Through his work, George helps grantees clearly articulate and execute on a strategic vision. George loves to connect people, which has helped him establish a record of accomplishment in solving large-scale interdisciplinary problems through philanthropy.

The Association of Fundraising Professionals Chicago Chapter is thrilled to recognize George S. Wright. 


Join AFP Chicago in celebrating Chicago's philanthropic community on Friday, May 3, 2019, at the Hilton Chicago.




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